SANTA FE SPRINGS — Elected and business representatives from Los Angeles County, Santa Fe Springs and Norwalk, along with officials of the state Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the Federal Highway Administration marked the opening of the Alondra Bridge here Aug. 29 by thanking area residents, motorists and businesses for their patience and noting there is light at the end of the (construction) tunnel.
They took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony near the bridge site in the parking lot of the Santa Fe Springs Drive-in, which remained open during the two years of construction.
Mark Archuleta, deputy district director of construction for Caltrans District, 7, said completion of the Alondra bridge phase was a milestone in the construction process to widen the Santa Ana (5) Freeway, which began several years ago and is expected to be completed in 2016.
Previously a two-lane bridge connecting Norwalk and Santa Fe Springs, the new structure is 40 feet wider, with three lanes in each direction, and 84 feet longer to carry it over the widened freeway, said Archuleta, noting it is expected to carry 30,000 vehicles a day.
“There is life east of the 405 Freeway,” county Supervisor Don Knabe said jokingly, referring to well-publicized freeway work on the westside of Los Angeles.
“I-5 is a lifeline between south and north California. This (improvement) is a huge responsibility, which we took to avert bottlenecks. We had to modernize an aging freeway,” added Knabe, who is a member of the county Metropolitan Transportation Authority board, which allocated $24 million in county transportation funds to the project.
Art Leahy, the MTA’s chief executive officer, noted that 10 years ago when he held a similar position in Orange County, officials there widened their portion of the freeway to the Orange County-Los Angeles County line east ofValley View Avenue in La Mirada. He said the goal then was to force Los Angeles County to continue the widening project to alleviate the bottleneck.
“I didn’t think 10 years ago that I would be here when it happened,” he said.
He was referring to the $1.8 billion project, started in 2010, to widen the freeway from the current three lanes in each direction average to five lanes each way, beginning at the county line and moving northwest to the San Gabriel River (605) Freeway in Downey.
Once that project is complete, work will begin to widen the freeway between the 605 Freeway and the Long Beach (710) Freeway in East Los Angeles.
Alondra is the second major bridge opening, coming three months after the Shoemaker Bridge was opened to the east on May 30.
Currently under construction is a six-lane bridge to carry Carmenita Road over the freeway in Norwalk. It is being built next to the current two-lane bridge, which will be demolished when the new span is completed in 2016.
Archuleta said only two major bridge projects are left. Work will start in the fall to widen Florence Avenue over the freeway in Downey, followed by the Valley View Bridge in La Mirada.
“It’s a grand project,” said Norwalk City Councilman Mike Mendez, who chairs the I-5 Joint Project Authority, a group of six cities organized to oversee and mitigate construction.
Other cities are La Mirada, Santa Fe Springs, Downey and Commerce. Buena Park was an original member of the authority because of some work, now completed, in that city.
“The Alondra Bridge is a critical link between Norwalk and Santa Fe Springs,” said Jay Sarno, a Santa Fe Springs city councilman.
“Today we stand on a much larger and safer bridge. This is a vital project for our community,” Sarno added, referring to new lighting and pedestrian access.
Area businesses are also affected by the project, said Curtis Mello, president of the Santa Fe Springs Chamber of Commerce and Industrial League.
“I am elated to be here,” Mello said, noting his place of business is nearby and in recent years he has had to use alternate routes to work.
“Many area businesses have waited for this moment. If you don’t have good roads, businesses are put at a disadvantage. The new bridge will help commerce, safe fuel [from traffic congestion] and give us cleaner air,” Mello said.
Also taking part in the ceremony was Rick Backlund, associate division administrator for the Federal Highway Administration, California Division, which provided funding for the project.
The Alondra Bridge Project began construction in March 2012. The 57-year old bridge was fully closed betweenMarquardt Avenue and Freeway Drive and demolished in June 2013.
During the past year, the bridge has been reconstructed and widened from a four-lane to a six-lane bridge, with three lanes in each direction, and longer to accommodate a wider freeway.
In addition to bridge reconstruction, the $110 million project is also adding one carpool and one general purpose lane in each direction, from North Fork Coyote Creek Bridge to Marquardt Avenue, reconstructing the North Fork Coyote Creek overcrossing and realigning and upgrading adjacent frontage roads.
The total Alondra project is scheduled to be completed sometime next year.
The contractor is C.C. Myers Inc. of Anaheim.